St. Kitts and Nevis has energetically embarked upon the 2 nd phase of a UNESCO-funded
cultural heritage project entitled: ‘Safeguarding St. Kitts and Nevis Intangible Cultural
Heritage (ICH) – Developing a National Intangible Cultural Heritage Policy.
Led by local ICH focal contacts Marlene Phillips (St. Kitts) and Patrick Howell (Nevis), and
backed by UNESCO funds worth over US$91,000, the ICH project will benefit from leading-
edge UNESCO technical assistance, aimed at creating a structured National ICH Policy
Framework to safeguard the knowledge of tradition bearers, and also to further identify and
preserve individual ICH elements.
Welcoming news of the approval of the funding and assistance from UNESCO, Permanent
Secretary in the Ministry of Culture, Valencia Syder, stated, “This is a wonderful opportunity
to strengthen an important aspect of the Federation’s rich cultural heritage. We anticipate a
submission on the final ICH Policy FPramework plan to be presented to the Minister of
Culture towards the end of 2023”.
To mark the success of securing new ICH funds from UNESCO, the Federation’s resident
Ambassador to UNESCO, H.E. David Doyle, met recently with Tim Curtis, head of the
UNESCO ICH Programme at UNESCO headquarters in Paris to explore the opportunities for
St. Kitts and Nevis.
Tim Curtis commended St. Kitts and Nevis on its success in securing ICH funds to develop
an ICH Policy Framework. “It’s an encouraging sign”, he said that, “a Caribbean small island
developing state, like St. Kitts and Nevis, recognises the value of the intangible cultural
heritage convention as a vehicle for identifying and protecting the traditions on how people
live, their identities, legacies and ensuring that such practices provide a sense of continuity
with the past”.
Referring to the dynamic nature of the ICH activity, especially on small islands, Mr Curtis
emphasised the importance of “living heritage” linked to both the past and capable of
adapting itself to current trends. “This is why the involvement of youth in the St. Kitts and
Nevis ICH project is critical; the ICH framework will reinforce the notion of intergenerational
transmission of key intangible practices, customs and traditions”. He noted that protecting
ICH items and knowledge systems had a powerful impact on livelihoods of local
One current positive trend UNESCO had identified was the ICH activity linked to sustainable
development, through preserving traditional culinary dishes as a means of addressing food
security challenges at a time of nervous impact brought about by climate change.
In terms of advice to the St. Kitts and Nevis ICH team on the ground, Mr Curtis stressed the
need for continued wide community engagement, involving citizens, government officials,
NGOs, and youth in galvanising both interest and input on the development of a solid and
consensus-driven future ICH Policy Framework.
Ambassador Doyle thanked UNESCO’s Bureau of the Committee for Safeguarding of the
Intangible Cultural Heritage ICH, and Tim Curtis for assisting St. Kitts and Nevis to secure
this new ICH project, “following on the heels of a previous UNESCO-funded ICH project
completed in 2021, entitled:: ‘Strengthening Inventory Preparation Capacity for
Implementing the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage
in St. Kitts and Nevis. This enabled the ICH focal contact persons in the twin-island
federation to build a solid foundation for implementing the project and, in particular, identify a
number of credible intangible cultural heritage items”. The inventory project was also backed
by nearly US$100,000 UNESCO funding.
Marlene Philips, the lead ICH focal contact for St. Kitts remarked, “Over the past three
years, in close collaboration with my Nevis ICH colleague, Patrick Howell, we drove this ICH
inventorying project sometimes against challenges posed by Covid 19, in interviewing
citizens about their intangible heritage background. The focus was to identify ICH elements
in need of safeguarding and developing an inventory to document them ”
Amongst the ICH items identified were Clay Pottery, Cactus Prickly Pear (the uses),
Vernacular Architecture, Calabash utensils, Cassava bread, a Kittitian house-broom and
The newly-elected Minister of Culture, Hon. Samal Duggins, equally pleased with the news
of this fresh UNESCO ICH funding and technical assistance ,said, ,“This technical assistance
and funding will massively scale-up St. Kitts and Nevis’ capacity and expertise in developing
an indigenous Intangible Cultural Heritage Policy Framework for the government, citizens
and everyone associated with preserving the cultural heritage, customs and traditions in the
Miss Roberitine Webbe, Director of St. Kitts Creative Economy was ecstatic to learn that
UNESCO has continued to give significant support towards the protection and promotion of
St. Kitts and Nevis cultural legacy.
The Intangible Cultural Heritage 2003 Convention, which the Federation ratified in April 2016,
sets out to identify traditions included in an ICH List compiled by UNESCO embracing a
compendium of customs, ceremonies, and traditions from around the globe. The ICH List
currently consists at some 500 items from 186 countries.